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Ohio Politics

Treasurer's scandal may hurt Dems

By admin Published: October 13, 2010

By Kathy Antoniotti
Beacon Journal staff writer

Republican voters will throng to the polls Nov. 2 and, according to some national surveys, sweep out the Democrats.

In firmly held Democratic offices of Stark County, a scandal in the treasurer's office also raises speculation that any officeholders with a ''D'' next to their name in November could get the boot.

At least that's what Republican Alexander Zumbar of Alliance, who is running against recently appointed Stark County Treasurer Kenneth Koher, a Democrat, hopes will happen.

Zumbar, North Canton's chief fiscal officer, promises to implement changes to clean up an office where, he says, oversight was so lax, a former employee was able to embezzle almost $3 million over nearly a decade. Zumbar said if elected, he would launch a plan of sweeping changes.

''I will be asking every employee to resubmit his or her resume and to submit to a background check to assure me and the taxpayers that we have the best team possible in place to do the professional duties required to restore trust in this office,'' Zumbar said.

''There are no written job descriptions in any of the jobs there. That's unacceptable.''

Koher, of Bethlehem Township, the man whom Democratic commissioners chose to replace former Treasurer Gary Zeigler, already has implemented new policies to prevent anyone from walking out with an armload of cash — as former Zeigler employee, chief deputy Vincent Frustaci, admitted to doing.

Frustaci is serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for his crimes. Commissioners blamed Zeigler for not preventing the theft of public funds, then removed him from office.

The winner of this election will serve the remainder of Zeigler's term, which expires in 2013.

At a meeting last week, Koher told commissioners he has implemented checks and balances he considers as basic, elementary banking practices that should have been in place all along.

Koher has been in the banking business for 34 years, most recently as deputy superintendent of banks for the Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of Financial Institutions.

Today, there is much less cash in the vault, which was serviced and had its timer cleaned after a long period of disuse.

Koher also has drafted a whistle-blower policy protecting anyone who reports illegal or unethical activity.

The first day on the job, Koher said, he walked in and opened the blinds on a wall of windows that overlooks employees.

''It wasn't symbolic at the time. But thinking about it, when I opened the blinds, basically, I've been trying to be transparent in the office. . . . It was something natural. I have nothing to hide,'' Koher said.

Zumbar said he would bring new ideas, good judgment, hard work and attention to detail in an attempt to restore integrity, credibility and trust to the office.

''The public purse has been raided. They've lost $2.9 million. That should give [voters] plenty of reasons to vote for new leadership this year,'' he said.

Zumbar said he is campaigning vigorously for the job even though the treasurer's position pays $68,275, almost $6,000 less than he makes in North Canton.

''Public service is not about money. Public service is about doing a job for taxpayers. . . . I will go to work every day and use my experience to reduce costs in that office,'' he said.

Koher said he's got a head start in doing that job.

''I think I put a lot of pots on the stove here and I'm just going through a triage to decide what needs attention and gets done first,'' he said. ''It's a challenge that I started, and I'm going to finish it. That's been my career.''

Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or



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